Is it Digital Marketing or just Marketing?

File under: Multi-Channel Marketing, Patient Engagement, Pharma innovation, Relationship Marketing

In a recent article about the future of pharma, Craig DeLarge was quoted extensively about how to organize a “center of excellence” within a pharma company to ensure it is taking advantage of digital tactics and multi-channel marketing. He sees this as the first step in the process of digital transformation for pharma.

marketing dig ageWhat his remarks drive home is the fact that digital and marketing aren’t separate disciplines. “We are marketing in the digital age,” says Craig. This means that marketing and digital marketing shouldn’t be seen as two separate initiatives or even act in a parent-child relationship. Yet very often that’s what happens as evidenced by the typical marketing budget process.

Marketing in the digital age is still marketing, but technology now enables a custom marketing mix that’s appropriate for our product and our audience. It’s not simply a case of adding a few new online or mobile tactics to the marketing mix. That’s just a recipe for adding more promotional noise, without the benefits that we can get from digital.

Relationship Marketing at Scale
Marketing in the digital age means that now we have the tools to become customer centric in a wholly new and cost-effective way. This is one of the most important results of the evolution of marketing in the last ten years. We now have the ability to do relationship marketing in a scalable manner. Before digital tools existed, it simply wasn’t cost-effective to discover and address the needs of customers – patients and healthcare professionals – on an individual level.

During the golden age of Mad Men marketing, research was used to build mass-market messaging that would impact prospective customers in the target audience. It was a game of odds, acknowledging that although many customers wouldn’t respond, enough would be reached to justify the marketing spend.

Marketing in the digital age means that now we have the ability to cost-effectively reach most of our target customers on an individual basis with an appropriate message that is specific and relevant to their unique needs. Marketing in the digital age enables relationship marketing.

The Corner Store
Customer Relationship Management often refers to the metaphor of the corner grocery store 100 years ago. The small town proprietor knew his customers and their buying habits, their idiosyncratic tastes and what special offers they would respond to. These types of relationships continue in small neighborhood shops and restaurants like those in West Town in Chicago where the owner makes it her job to know her customers.

Today, digital marketing tools help brand managers in large companies finally achieve a similar level of customer insight. This insight enables a much more nimble and customer-centric strategy whether we’re focused on sales, marketing or service and regardless of the types of tactics and touchpoints we are employing.

Digital-enabled marketing allows us to answer the question, “How well do we know our customers on an individual basis?” Knowing more about your individual customers will likely impact your market strategy, messaging, promotional plan and business model. And that’s what really drives the investment in digital, because fundamentally, digital is not just another channel but a platform to gain customer insight. With that insight, we’re able to trigger communications and design content, offers and tools to reach customers better.

Centers of Excellence
These changes are profound for pharma, as they have been for every industry. This is where the role of the “center of excellence” should come into play. Where centers of excellence typically fall short is by focusing primarily on developing new digital pilots or programs to add to the existing marketing mix.

Centers of excellence can serve pharma most effectively in three ways. They can demonstrate the cost-effectiveness and reach of digital tactics, they can serve as an expert resource for brand teams looking to build a relationship marketing capability, and they can support the broader strategic goal of making pharma customer focused.

It’s this last role that is the most important and profound. Members of digital center of excellence should see themselves as change agents, leading the process of digital transformation and taking on the responsibility of midwifing companies to relationship marketing.

As is the case in any business, marketing processes and methods in pharma evolve and change over time. Pharma is on a journey to discover the best approach to becoming customer-centric, and realigning traditional and digital marketing is one step along the path. There is a great opportunity for managers in the emerging center of excellence model to lead the process of digital transformation.

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